From the very beginning, TRILUX always had a strong focus on energy efficiency and a conscientious use of resources. With the current environmental issues gaining more and more importance, we continue to follow this part of our DNA. For instance, we are looking at new ways to evaluate our use of resources, new materials, new processes and how we use products, especially at the ‘end of life’. This is why TRILUX is part of the European research project Repro-light which has been conducted over the last three years by a consortium of lighting industry partners. The results of our research have helped to make lighting even greener and provided some surprising insights.
During the research project, TRILUX had a close look at the sustainability and the circular economy of luminaires. For this purpose, an Environmental Lifecycle Assessment of a typical luminaire was conducted quantifying the environmental impact of the product over its life cycle including disposal. The assessment included the energy consumption of the production process and the usage phase as well as the materials used. Special importance was given to the most precious ADP materials (measured by a metric called Abiotic Depletion Potential of the elements) as well as to copper, steel and plastic.
Saving ADP materials
The obvious opportunities to improve in this step are to use as little material as possible and to use recycled instead of virgin materials. The steel and copper in our luminaires already contain recycled elements. We also design long-lasting luminaires so that the production process is not repeated too often and that they could remain in use for a very long time. Our solution was to design an improved product that saves materials and especially the most precious materials. As the LED modules have the major ADP contribution, we addressed this in two ways. First, the LEDs were replaced by ones which do not have a gold bond wire because the gold contained in standard LEDs is a large proportion of the ADP total. Secondly, the LED module got slimmer so we need less copper and less materials for the board itself. As a result, TRILUX achieved a reduction of 61% of the ADP element content.
Making luminaires repairable sounds great, but it isn’t
Tightly connected to discussions about sustainability and circularity is the issue reparability. With LED luminaires, this topic provides some surprises. While it might sound logical to build luminaires where the LED module can be changed just like lamps, this is actually not always the most sustainable option. The reason lies in the constructive details. Repairable luminaires require slight changes like additional connectors which increase the amount of ADP elements in total. TRILUX aftersales data shows that less than 0.25% of all luminaires fail within their nominal lifetime due to a defective LED module. Keeping that in mind as well as the fact that both types of luminaire can be recycled, it becomes clear that making all luminaires precautionary repairable using extra ADP elements is unsustainable.
Still very important: saving energy
Still very important: saving energy Even though using materials efficiently and conscientiously is very important, our research shows that the electricity used during operations of the luminaire has by far the most important impact on the environment. It makes up 99% of the energy consumed in the entire life cycle of a luminaire. Therefore, making luminaires as energy-efficient as possible is of highest importance but to further improve efficiency, light management systems have to be taken into account as well.
Authors: Victor J. Ferreira, Sebastian Knoche, Jai Verma, Cristina Corchero Title: Life cycle assessment of a modular LED luminaire and quantified environmental benefits of replaceable components, Published: Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 317 (2021)